David Sabatini resigns MIT professorship after sexual harassment probe led to ouster from Whitehead Institute
The prominent biotech founder and researcher David Sabatini has resigned his tenured spot on MIT’s faculty.
Sabatini stepped down following an external probe that found he had violated the sexual harassment policies of MIT’s Whitehead Institute, according to a public letter from MIT president L. Rafael Reif. Sabatini was previously ousted from Whitehead after the probe’s findings, but the latest development saw him leave MIT altogether.
According to Reif’s letter, “Professor Sabatini engaged in a sexual relationship with a person over whom he held a career-influencing role, he did not disclose the relationship at any time to his supervisors, and he failed to take any steps to relinquish his mentoring and career-influencing roles, as the policy requires.”
Additionally, Reif wrote, Sabatini resigned “without exercising his policy right to request that a faculty committee be formed to review the recommendation to revoke tenure and report to me on their findings and recommendation.”
A spokesperson for the Whitehead Institute declined comment to Endpoints News. Sabatini could not be reached.
Last August, an independent investigation discovered the violations, prompting Sabatini’s expulsion from Whitehead and MIT to place him on administrative leave. The inquiry had been prompted by a March 2021 survey assessing the institute’s culture, a copy of which was previously obtained by Endpoints.
The survey “identified issues of particular concern in the Sabatini lab,” Whitehead director Ruth Lehmann said at the time.
In response to his ouster, Sabatini filed a defamation lawsuit against his accuser last October which claimed he had a consensual sexual relationship with a fellow at the Whitehead Institute that was “effectively over” by 2019. Sabatini also said in the suit that the accuser wanted to “exact revenge” after he ended the relationship.
The accuser filed a counterclaim in December, alleging Sabatini’s suit amounted to a smear campaign. Sabatini allegedly condoned a “toxic and sexually charged lab environment,” the countersuit said and coerced her into a non-consensual sexual relationship.
Sabatini’s resignation comes as several prominent individuals in biopharma have faced sexual harassment accusations in recent months. Moncef Slaoui accepted responsibility for misconduct that spurred an investigation at GSK, Josh Smiley was fired from his job as CFO at Eli Lilly and researcher Aubrey de Grey was fired after allegations he harassed two colleagues.